Everything we now use is made [in] imitation of those models lately discovered in Italy. – Observation by an Englishman
In the late 18th century, hairstyles for women took a dramatic turn from the pouffed-up and constructed hairdos of the earlier Georgian age to the simple hair styles inspired by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Curls now framed the face and chignons replaced the complicated, almost architectural concoctions that took hairdressers hours to create. Ancient statues and works of art brought back as spoils of war or as souvenirs from grand tours revealed classical hairstyles. Women began to wear simpler hairdos with long hair pulled back in chignons or simple pony tails, long curls trailing over the shoulder, and short ringlets framing the face. Hair ornaments consisted of flower wreaths, ribbons, jewelry, tiaras, and combs.
Lady Caroline Lamb (lower left) sported a saucy short bob, whose influence can be seen from the portrait in the Roman mural at the Metropolitan Museum. Madame Recamier, whose hair is longer, achieves a similar effect with ringlets around her face. Her curly hair, gathered in back, allowed the ringlets to fall. At right, the Marchioness of Queenston achieved a very similar style to Madame Recamier’s, but her bandeau sat further back on her head and the ringlets framing her face were thicker.
Longer hair, while not as prevalent as the up-do’s, usually took the form of a long curl draped over the shoulder. At second to right, Mrs. Henry Baring wore a more casual “do”, with her locks streaming around her neck and shoulders.
Straight, simple hairstyles with few ringlets and ordinary bangs, or a style simply parted in the middle were worn, but were not drawn or painted by artists or depicted in fashion plates as often as the curlier styles.
Fashion plates of the time show how these hairstyles looked with bonnets and hair ornaments with a (l – r) walking dress, ball gown, afternoon dress, or morning dress.
The hairstyles that Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson wore in Sense and Sensibility seemed to be particularly true to the period (in my opinion). Some of you may have noticed that I use Kate Winslet’s image of Marianne as my avatar.
This image of a Roman statue (a copy of an earlier Greek statue) shows the hairstyle that would become prevalent in the later Regency/early Victorian era (1820’s to 1830’s).
“We wore white crepe dresses trimmed with satin ribbon & the bodices & sleeves spotted with white beads. . . Thursday night, Pearl combs, necklaces, earrings, & brooches. . . Tuesday evening we had sprigged muslin. . . gold ornaments & flowers in our heads & Friday we wore yellow gauze dresses over satin, beads in our heads & pearl ornaments” – Fanny Knight Austen
Fanny Knight wrote a vivid description of how women dressed and what sort of accessories were popular when she was a young woman. The 1811 fronticepiece to The Mirror of Graces (above) shows how simple and elegant the combination of Neoclassical hair, dress, and accessories looked. Jewelry styles favored smaller, lighter forms of draped chains and classical motifs, which were reflected in hair ornaments. These days jewelry from the Georgian era is difficult to find, for many of the pieces were refitted or redesigned to reflect motifs of the neoclassical period. (Neoclassical Jewellery ). Ebay Guides can be extremely useful in researching information about this era, such as this one entitled, Georgian and Regency Combs and Hair Accessories – 1800-1814. (Click here for the PDF document.)
In addition to gold and silver hair ornaments, such as tiaras and diadems, young women wore silk ribbons, strands of pearls, feathers and other fancy hair ornaments in their hair, most notably for balls and formal occasions. These hair jewels were a visible sign of a family’s or husband’s wealth. Bonnets, hats, or turbans were also worn on social outings. The second image from the right (above) is of a George III silver comb, 1807. “Silver combs of this type appear to have been a speciality of Birmingham, where they were produced in a small quantity and in a collectable variety of forms.” (Cinoa)
As the Regency era progressed long hair became increasingly popular and full ringlets began to appear near the side of the face. Hair ornaments for balls included jewellery, bandeaux, turbans and wreaths of grapes and towards the latter end of the Regency era flowers, turbans and ostrich feathers were seen to adorn the hair. (Overseale House)
These days we achieve curls and ringlets with a hot curling iron. The use of hot irons in the 19th century was tricky, for hair could easily be singed. Back then, curls were made with pomade, a hair gel, and curling papers. The lost art of the paper curl describes how a person today can make a similar curl using old-fashioned techniques.
The transition from the structured hairstyles of the mid-18th Century to the Regency period was not achieved without its own set of complications, as this James Gillray cartoon shows. The cartoon was drawn in the earlier Neoclassical period, when round gowns were still worn.
The fashion plate below shows how charming and uncomplicated, yet classic, the combination of the 1802 hairstyles and afternoon dresses are together, whereas the 1811 fronticepiece showed how rich both hair and fabric can be made to look using similar principles of fashion design.
More links on this topic:
- The History of the Curl from Every Woman’s Encyclopedia offers a short discussion about hairstyles in early 1800. While the discussion is quite informative, please note that the drawings are Edwardian interpretations of Regency paintings.
- Read more: http://haircare.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_copy_pride_and_prejudice_hairstyles#ixzz0Vcw73tTj
- Ebay Guides can be extremely useful in researching information about a certain era, such as this one entitled, Georgian and Regency Combs and Hair Accessories – 1800-1814, Click here for the PDF document.
- Encyclopedia of hair: a cultural history by Victoria Sherrow
- Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion Hairstyles
- Regency Hairstyle Tutorial
- Regency hairstyles on Ups and Downs
- Vintage Styling: Regency Hair
- Barbara Anne’s Hair Comb Blog: EBay
- Her Crowning Glory: Nineteen Teen
- We Make History by Lord Scott: Series of paintings showing Regency hairstyles
- Period Hairstyles: Crowning Glory
- Victorian Hair Combs